Too much tertiary education... Former performer/wrestler, teacher, scientist; Published author & Father... Want to be a writer if I grow up...
Published October 10th 2021
War is not necessarily celebrated in song
After my recent columns about fighting, I received a DM on Twitter explaining (a) that the columns were not good because I ignored a heap of hip-hop, rap & r&b tracks, and that, (b) I should do a column on war songs.
First point: Ignoring tracks is wrong. I only use tracks I like.
Second point: Ask, and I will endeavour to comply.
And, just to make that person feel good, not one song is from the twenty-first century.
So, songs about war. I don't want to go on too long here, so this are songs from my collection that I like with the word "war" in the title. Some are about personal wars, many are anti-war, but the word "war" is there, front and centre.
I was actually going to avoid a war song column, but by just looking at the song titles, this is a great list of awesome songs, and it does fit in with the odd theme that seems to have developed as of late. As such, I have also avoided any songs that have appeared in recent lists.
So, with no further ado, songs about wars!
'Mars, The Bringer Of War' by Gustav Holst (1914)
From BBC Proms
The first of the suite called The Planets is also my favourite of the 7 pieces that make it up. A great classical piece full of bombast and intensity. This is the sort of piece that could well convert someone to classical music who does not know much about it.
'Masters Of War' by Bob Dylan (1963)
This is a song that has come up recently, and is about the war machine and the capitalist demands behind it, something that still holds true now, almost sixty years later. One of Dylan's most scathing songs.
'Wars or The Hands Of Time' by Masters Apprentices (1966)
An anti-Vietnam War song from Adelaide's own Masters Apprentices, that is a great piece of Australian classic rock, and yet is one of the many songs in their canon unknown nowadays. Strong track.
'War' by Edwin Starr (1970)
Covered by so many, the first version I heard was by Frankie Goes To Hollywood, then I heard a live version by Bruce Springsteen, and then, after that, I heard the original. It is as powerful as any other, and it is a really strong song with such a simple message that still holds true today.
'War Pigs' by Black Sabbath (1970)
Low and heavy, this early track by Ozzy Osbourne and company is the precursor for a lot of music that was to follow. And it is very anti-war; look at the opening lines to see that: "Generals gathered in their masses/ Just like witches at black masses…" Powerful track.
'Happy Xmas (War Is Over)' by John Lennon (1971)
Another song covered often, this anti-war song has become one of the most beloved of the John Lennon catalogue. The chant at the end is more wishful thinking than any sense of reality, which is a shame, but the song is still really good.
'The Eve Of The War' by Jeff Wayne (1978)
The opening track from Jeff Wayne's musical version of War Of The Worlds sets the tone for one of the most intriguing concept albums ever created. I really, really like this album set – I have it on cassette, then a twenty-year anniversary edition on CD, then another multi-disc special anniversary edition on CD. But this track, with Richard Burton's dulcet tones opening proceedings, is glorious.
'Life During Wartime' by Talking Heads (1979)
I first heard this on the frankly magnificent live album Stop Making Sense, and it is, to me, one of the better Talking Heads songs in their catalogue. The driving beat and the really strong lyrics make this track for me. It is just a wonderful track.
'This Means War' by Tank (1983)
One of the lesser-known members of the NWOBHM, Tank was a band whose third album (this is the title track) was one I loved and wore out on cassette. A great song about just declaring war on someone, if you decide you want a copy, go for the original; the re-recorded version by one of the new Tanks (they split into two bands both called Tank) is lacking something.
'The Dogs Of War' by Pink Floyd (1987)
Many people put down the album A Momentary Lapse Of Reason because of the lack of Roger Waters, but I really like it. Better than some of their other albums, to be honest. And it's tracks like this one – another one about politicians and capitalism orchestrating wars – that do it for me. Great guitars, a good sax solo, strong lyrics.
'Civil War' by Guns N'Roses (1991)
Many people (and I include myself here) feel that the Use Your Illusion albums could have made an amazing single album. I like them both, don't get me wrong, but one album would have been awesome. One song that would make the cut is this anti-war track, one of the better lyrically by the band. Really good song.
'War Again' by Oingo Boingo (1994)
I am starting to use more and more songs by this band as time goes on because they are a really strong band and their songs are great. This one rails against the televised wars that appeared in the 1990s. Vietnam was there in highlights packages; the Gulf War was live, like a sporting event. And this song just goes to town on that concept.
12 songs, an even dozen, about war in a myriad of forms. I'm pretty sure none glorify war, and all of them are great tracks. But if, like the person who inspired this, you have any ideas for columns, leave a comment below and I will endeavour to do what I can.